New Delhi: With the COVID-19 pandemic halting all sports activities, India's former chief badminton coach Vimal Kumar on Tuesday urged the government to allow the Olympics-bound athletes to continue their training after conducting the required tests.
Following the respective directives of the Talengana and Karnataka governments, the Pullela Gopichand academy in Hyderbad and Prakash Padukone Academy in Bangalore have been shut down for two weeks.
Rio silver medallist P V Sindhu, men's singles player B Sai Praneeth and men's doubles pair of Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy have so far assured themselves of a berth at the Tokyo Olympics.
"I feel sad for the sports community. They follow healthy lifestyle, they have good immunity unlike general public. So I believe the government should look at ways to test these athletes who have already qualified and allow them to train," Vimal told PTI.
"If it was some other year I wouldn't have said so but it is an Olympic year, it comes after every four years. So put them through constant testing and even if some test positive I believe they will recover in two weeks time."
A leaf out of Chinese book
"In badminton, look what China, Japan or Korea are doing. They are staying in different countries and training. Here we have hardly 100 odd people who have qualified for Olympics. They have to be looked at a little bit differently," Vimal said.
Sindhu's father PV Ramana said at least the shuttlers who have qualified for Olympics should be allowed to train at the Gopichand academy.
"Badminton is not a contact sport, so you can maintain that 5 feet distance. I believe at least players who have qualified should be allowed to train. If you don't train for 15 days, it will take another two months to get back to match fitness," he said.
"There are 8 courts at the academy, so it is possible to allow Sindhu, Sai and Chirag-Satwik to continue their on-court training. There will be hardly a few players and they can take the necessary precautions, and still train," said Ramana, a former India volleyball player.
With the Gopichand academy locked down, Sindhu and Praneeth are trying to find ways to keep themselves fit.
"The two-week break will affect our fitness. The gym in my apartment has also been shut so I don't have anywhere to work on my fitness. I take long walks and jog inside the campus," Praneeth said.